Fitness Is in My Genes

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I was reflecting on the origins of Gal on the Go. Who inspired me to change and live a more active and healthful existence? I was fixated on coming up with a woman in my life; then it dawned on me; it’s my Uncle Joe!!!!

Ever since I was a little girl, I was aware of my Uncle Joe’s commanding presence and dedication to fitness. However, I didn’t realize the impact his healthy lifestyle had on my mindset. In my teens and college years, I was preoccupied with navigating my life. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized the power of his influence by way of example through his fitness work ethic.

Today, at age 75, my uncle could put many 20 somethings to shame! I was curious about how 61 years of daily fitness became a part of his life. So, I picked up the phone, called him, and had a lengthy heartfelt discussion with him.

The following is part of our conversation. I hope you find it insightful and inspirational…

Q: How old were you when you first started working out?
A: 14; I was a freshman in high school.

Q: Who or what influenced you to start exercising?
A: You know, we come from a big family. I didn’t have much growing up, and I didn’t know anything about exercise. One day, Uncle Phil and his son came to our house. They lived four doors down on the same side of the street. Phil was my favorite uncle. Phil told my father that he joined this health club and was working out, and my cousin made a muscle, a bicep. I looked at it like wow! Uncle Phil talked my father into allowing me to join the gym with my cousin, who was already a member.

I believe Uncle Phil paid for my first year — it was around $50 for a one-year membership back then. At that time in the 1950s, I didn’t even know what weight training was. I never heard of it. I didn’t know anybody who was lifting weights. I just knew my cousin’s muscles looked huge. I didn’t know how he got them.

As I got older, I added cardio to my weight lifting regiment because heart problems run in my father’s side of the family. There were five boys, and all of them died of heart issues. I felt doing cardiovascular exercises on a regular basis would help to minimize my chance of having a heart attack or something.

Q: What was the first gym you ever belonged to?
A: American Health Studio. It was a bodybuilding place — strictly weight training. Back in the 1950s, they didn’t have an indoor track, and all the other stuff gyms have today. It was just bodybuilding. There were two sides to the gym; one for competitive members, and another for beginners. We lifted on the non-competitive side, and I was grateful because when you start as a kid, you’re benching like 75 pounds. If I had watched the guys on the competitive side, I would have been intimidated by how much they lifted.

Q: How many gyms have you belonged to in 61 years?
A: At least 13. The average life span of a gym is usually seven to eight years. There’s so much competition. I belong to two gyms at a time for a challenge and change of pace, you know, different scenery. I was given the keys to several gyms over the years because the owners respected me. So I was able to work out any time I wanted, even on days when the gym was closed, like on Christmas. I prefer family-owned gyms because I feel that when you go to a smaller gym, you’re never among strangers. When you walk into a large commercial gym where there are 500+ members, it’s not the same. At smaller gyms, you get to know everybody, and it’s more personal.

Back in the day, there were very few gyms; now there is one every two blocks. Also, years ago, you would never see a woman in the gym. In the 1960s, I saw some women at the gym, but they were using vibration machines. I never saw them lifting weights. In the 1980s, I saw a few women weight training. Now I go to the Lockport YMCA, and there are an equal number of women, if not more women than men strength training.

Q: How many times a week did you go to the gym when you started in your teens?
A: About three times a week at the most. It was hard when I was younger because I didn’t have a car. I didn’t get my driver’s license until I was 26, so for years, I had to take a bus to the gym. In the beginning, there were periods when I would take a few weeks off from working out, but then I always returned. I think the periods of rest were good for me. When you go back, even though it’s challenging to start up again, you get stronger and stronger, because your body is rested.

One time, for some reason I hadn’t worked out for a long time because I was very sick. When I returned to lifting, it was tough for me to get back into shape. I swore that I was going to make sure I was disciplined. I had gained some weight, and I didn’t like it. It took a lot of effort for me to get down to the weight that was best for me. I vowed that I was never going to put myself through that again, and I never did. For more than 40 years, I’ve been very consistent.

I felt so good lifting. As I became stronger, I gained confidence. I had a newfound realization. When you are a freshman in high school, guys pick on you, but as I grew stronger and stronger, no one would bother me. I went to school at Canisius where kids had cars at age 16 and came from families with lots of money. I didn’t have any money, you know, I was the second eldest of eight kids from a family on the west side. The only thing I had to give my friends was protection from other kids. They counted on me if they were having trouble to solve their problems.

I’m not proud of this, but one day I went to school on a Saturday and hit a kid because he was picking on a friend of mine. A friend drove me. I went to school, knocked on the door, and told the kid to come out. He was a year ahead of me. He wouldn’t come out, but I kept knocking. Finally, he came out, and I said something like I heard you’re picking on my buddy Tom. I hit the kid and the next thing you know, we were in a priest’s office. The priest punched me with his knuckle right in my chest cavity. I couldn’t breathe. He told me to get out of school. I figured I deserved it. I never got into further trouble.

Q: How many times a week do you work out now?
A: Seven days a week. Every other day I go to a gym. I belong to two gyms and alternate between them. On my “off days,” I work out at home briefly in the morning and then at night. When I work out at home, I use light weights and walk on the treadmill. Every day, in the early morning I warm up at home for about 20 minutes with light weights, then I go to the gym for two and a half hours and do a mix of cardio, free weights and some of the weight machines, and then at night I do another 20-minute light workout at home. I like exercising in the morning because it sets the tone for the day. I can commit to other projects the rest of the day and not feel resentful if I didn’t get my workout in.

Q: What are some changes you have experienced since you started weight lifting in your teens?
A: When I was younger, I thought a true man doesn’t work out on machines. He uses free weights, but as I have gotten older, I see things differently. If they didn’t have machines at gyms now, I probably wouldn’t be able to get much of a workout. Years ago I wouldn’t join a gym unless they had over 100-pound dumbbells because I had already mastered the hundreds and I could do many reps with a 100. Now, I go to a gym, and the first thing I ask is, do you have anything lighter? I’m at the other end of the rack now.

When I was in my 20s until about age 48, I used to lift weights, run five miles a day in Delaware Park, and play basketball. I liked to mix things up. I didn’t listen to my body. I had the “no pain, no gain” mentality. It was the philosophy at that time. I learned that there’s a difference between pain and discomfort. If your body is in pain that’s a problem, but sometimes your ego gets in the way, and you continue to bench press and exercise too intensely; that’s not good.

Over the years, I heard about a lot of the bodybuilders I knew who were not doing so well. Some of them were taking things over a period of time and paid the price. I never took anything but Creatine and Protein. Unfortunately, I knew people who took things and committed suicide — they would go into rages. At one point, there was a cleaning chemical called Dimethyl Sulfoxide (DMSO) that some guys used to put on their skin to absorb because they thought it helped with the pain.

Q: What is your favorite weight exercise?
A: French curls, also known as tricep extensions. I think because people always made positive comments about my arms. I used to curl 175 pounds.

Q: What impact has exercise had in your life and in what way?
A: It has kept me healthy. I have only taken off from work a few days ever my whole life. Also, I was very shy and lacked confidence. It took a while, but weight training made me feel like I was on equal footing with others.

When I became a school teacher, I ran a weight training program for elementary and high school kids. I would show up early, around 7 a.m., and we would work out for an hour or so a couple of times a week. An assistant principal asked me to do it; the board of education didn’t want it for insurance reasons, but the assistant principal still gave me the OK to do it. One of my students, Mike Pariso, became a competitive bodybuilder on a national level and is known as the “Man of Steel.”

Over the years, people nicknamed me Jack LaLanne. They still call me that to this day. I consider it a compliment. Jack did a lot for fitness — he brought it into our homes in the 1950s. He did nothing but good for healthy living and bodybuilding.

Q: Who is your idol?
A: My son Joey. I say that because of all he went through. He never once lamented or felt pity for himself. He was determined to fight. I admire that kid; he’s something. (Quick Background: Joey is my cousin, who is my age and the son of my Uncle Joe. A few years ago, with no warning, he was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer, underwent drastic surgery, fought for his life, and is doing great today.)

Q: What advice would you give others?
A: The biggest thing I tell people is to listen to their body. You can remain uninjured by listening to the little signals your body sends you — this is too much; you don’t need to do this; rest, etc. There’s a difference between being sore the next day, and hearing tears as you do exercises. If you listen to your body, you can continue for many many years.

I don’t see why you can’t keep exercising, even in modified form for decades. My buddy Herbie, a retired police officer, is in his early 80s. We used to work out together back in the day at Turner’s gymnasium, a gymnastics place that had weights. Herbie still tries to exercise and seems to enjoy it. His body is broken down, but his will is strong! I have always looked forward to working out. As long as I can retain that enthusiasm, I’ll continue to work out. I don’t see it waning. I sometimes wonder what would have happened if I didn’t get into fitness and develop confidence. I credit weight lifting with a lot. I enjoy it immensely and hope that I can continue to do it for years and years.

___________

[The end of our conversation… Listen, Kimmy, you made my day. I love ya. Bye, dear.]
My uncle rocks!!!! ❤️

A main goal of Gal on the Go is to motivate people to lead active fearless lives. I hope that you have an Uncle Joe in your life who positively influenced you or that you are an inspiration to someone else!

Testing 1, 2, 3 … Podcast Running Session

The Running Couple Podcast

I had the honor of being the first guest on a podcast show called The Running Couple. Mark and Lissett Lineberry, aka The Running Couple, are a cool duo who are busy parents of four and share a passion for running. They travel all over the US participating in running races of various levels and distances. I had a blast being interviewed by them! I hope that my session inspires you to go out and conquer any physical fitness challenge, small or large, that brings you enjoyment.

Be sure to check out their website and other inspiring podcast session interviews!

Outtakes From Running Podcast

The Running Couple Podcast

Here is the original transcript of my podcast interview with The Running Couple. I am sharing it in hopes that as you begin to set your fitness goals for spring and the rest of 2018, my journey will motivate you!


Kimberly Evering started her blog, Gal on the Go, years ago as part of a grad school project. She’s had so much fun doing it, that she’s kept it going for 10 years. Kimberly was originally inspired by a story Ted Leonsis shared about his bucket list on DC101. She decided to create a fluid bucket list about her life experiences through blog posts and photos. Gal on the Go organically grew into an adventure theme with a custom logo and the tagline “Use your fears to become fearless!” After three significant surgeries over the past three years, Kimberly decided to take control of her circumstances and work hard to make healthy comebacks each time. She entered a variety of races including Spartans, 10Ks, Tough Mudders and triathlons all over the world. Kimberly maintains her blog in hopes that her stories encourage other girls and women to lead healthy lives and try things, within reason, outside of their comfort zones. Her ultimate goal is to start a foundation one day!

Q: What was your favorite race this year (2017) and why?
A: My favorite race was the VA Momentum SUPTri in July because it combined a new sport for me, paddle boarding with a sport I have loved since I was a little girl, cycling, and a sport I just started a few years ago and that I am still learning, running. The race presented a weather challenge that I had never faced before in the form of a torrential downpour. During the very hilly cycling portion I was cursing Mother Nature, but then I realized I needed to see it as just another challenge and tackle it in that way.
Q: What drew your interest to running?
A: I ran for the first time a few years ago as part of a boot camp class. I thought it would be unenjoyable, but surprisingly it wasn’t! I moved to a different city and visited a local store called Pacers Running. Doug, the manager, told me about a community group that meets up at the store for fun short runs on weekdays and long runs on Sundays. I joined a three-mile weekday run and liked it so much, that I continued running with the group. I learned a lot from Lissett (half of The Running Couple Podcast) and from other experienced runners in the group.
Q: What keeps you running?
A: I continue running to improve my skills and because I enjoy the comradery of others.
Q: What’s playing on your running playlist?
A: I am a HUGE music lover and serve on the board of directors of the college radio station WBNY. Ironically, however, when I run solo I don’t wear headphones because I try to be as alert as possible to my surroundings, and when I run with a group I like talking with others. In my car, you can catch me singing my heart out to my favorite tunes on Spotify … sorry to those stuck at red lights beside me.
Q: What’s the biggest obstacle you had to face?
A: Physical recovery from a surgery and then having to do it again two more times! The biggest surprise obstacle has been fighting my mental doubts. I got into running and serious physical fitness late in life. At first, I thought is it too late to get into running? Should I even try? I pushed the self-doubt aside and figured why not! The running, yoga and challenge race groups I am part of consist of people of all skill levels and ages — there’s no judgment; which is very inspiring!
Q: Do you run for speed or for distance?
A: Currently, I run for distance because I am still learning about pacing and speed. During races, I try my hardest to be fast, but I have not figured out a good consistent pace for myself yet. I tend to run at the pace of those around me … or at least I try.
Q: Are you a trail, pavement pounder, or treadmill runner?
A: I am a pavement pounder! Give me a nice paved path to run any day. Trail running is a close second because it usually provides cool scenery. My least favorite running is on a treadmill because I spend the bulk of my day working in an office, so the last thing I want to do when I am off the clock is being stuck inside.
Q: Are you a morning, afternoon or evening runner?
A: I prefer morning or evening runs, especially during hot summer months. I found that I usually have a more productive day when I kick-start my energy with a form of physical activity in the morning. Also, it’s nice to get my workouts in early so that if other things come up I don’t feel cheated missing out on my favorite activity of the day.
Q: Where’s your “wall”?
A: My wall seems to be about 10 miles. I look forward to working on increasing my “wall”, especially given my goal of doing a half-marathon.
Q: What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever seen while running?
A: Hmmm, probably the time when a baby deer ran swiftly across only a few inches in front of a group trail run I was part of — it hung out on the side briefly watching us. I wondered if it thought it could show us a thing or two about grace and speed!
Q: What’s your favorite running resource or gear?
A: Since I am still fairly new to the running scene I continue to experiment with gear by different brands. When I first started, I ran in Nike sneakers, but someone recently turned me on to Brooks® Ghost 10 Running Shoes and I really like them. My absolute favorite tool that I use for all my fitness activities is my trusty Endomondo app on my phone! I use the free version, which provides a range of valuable data. I have been promoting the app to others for years, so much that I should be a brand ambassador for them!
Q: What’s the best thing that happened during a run? What’s the worst?
A: The best was reaching a final distance I was unaware of during a group Sunday run and being proudly in shock when I found out how far I had run. The worst was when my legs cramped badly during a challenge race, which in turn held back my teammates. I felt horrible and helpless.
Q: How has running helped you?
A: Running has provided me with an interest in a sport new to me and the determination to see what level I can reach — I am currently up to 10K level. Everyone needs to start somewhere! (UPDATE: This year I will attempt my first half-marathon in Vancouver, BC, as a SeaWheeze participant. SeaWheeze has been on my fitness bucket list for many years before I knew what serious running entailed just because of its “fun factor” reputation. I didn’t deserve to participate in the event before, which I respectfully realize. I now have the running knowledge and training to merit my place as a SeaWheeze participant and true appreciation for the opportunity.)
Q: What’s the most special race you’ve participated in so far?
A: The Dulles Day 10K, known as “the flattest, fastest race in the beltway”, is my favorite for sentimental reasons because it was my first 10K and the longest run I have completed so far. The challenge races I’ve done like Spartan and Tough Mudder involved a lot of intense running through woods, but the running was broken up between obstacles, so it’s different. Dulles Day was also memorable because it took place on the full length of the Dulles Airport runway shut down special for 2,500 runners, providing unique views of planes and the airport tower.
Q: What’s the craziest thought that has popped into your head during a run?
A: Oh no, major wedgie (and there’s nothing I can do about it if I am running with others)! I also think about unexpected obstacles like tree roots or rocks, hoping not to trip and fall on my face!